a year ago

Permanence of books, art works and movies

Published :

Updated :

Thanks to the supervision and care of an institution like Biswa Bharati, all publications of Rabindranath Tagore are still available to the interested readers. The institution holds the copyright of all published books by Tagore. However, a number of books have already been declared free of copyright obligations. Any publisher can now reprint these books without formal permission. Many celebrated authors in the Sub-continent come under the jurisdiction of copyright rules. If any obscure publisher prints their books without permission, the author or his original publisher can take legal action against them. In the process, the former's publications are called pirated copies. In the poorer countries, pirated copies of books are a common scenario. With the copyright bar on books by Tagore now gone, publishers are now free to print the books by the poet. It has led to the emergence of scores of publishers doing roaring business with new editions of books by Tagore.

The twentieth and twenty-first century world of books, painting, movies and music is constrained by many features not encountered in many disciplines. Out-of-print publications are one such feature. Non-availability of these books and their plagiarised versions prepared by the later authors are some others. The old publications' e-book versions, the copyright and other nitty-gritty are emerging as new challenges. In the thick of events leading to the disappearance of many a book is another dread the author and his or her admirers have to put up with. Nearly the same is the case with painting, movies and music.

Old paintings done on canvas begin passing through a phase of corrosion after long years, i.e. 100 years at the maximum. Unless they are repaired by using the similar brush strokes and paint they begin wearing out. Countless art works by a time's remarkable artists, thus, got depleted. Paintings are unique pieces; they cannot be duplicated or copied into the similar versions. Thus they have been the victims of heist for centuries, especially in the modern times. 'Le Pigeon aux Petis Pois' by Pablo Picasso, one of the greatest painters of the 20th century, was stolen from a gallery in 2010.`Reading Girl in White Yellow' by Henry Matisse became a victim of theft in 1919. 'Charles Cross Bridge, London', by Claude Monet became a victim of heist in 2012. The list is quite long. Yet some heists and robberies warrant mention. Those involve 'Portrait of a Young Man' by Raphael (1513), stolen during the WW-II; 'Poppy Flowers' by Vincent Van Gogh was heisted from a museum in Cairo in 2010.

The psychological traumas notwithstanding, the stolen 'Mona Lisa' was returned to the Paris' Louvre museum by the robbers after three years in 1914. The year was one of global celebration; for the de Vinci masterpiece had long been regarded as an artistic treasure of mankind.

Many art works have yet to be retrieved or returned to galleries by the thieves. They appear to have vanished with few signs of trace. According to globally famed art critics and sleuths, many world famous art pieces have finally landed in the exclusive living rooms of the super-rich around the world. Art heists are committed by the operatives of gangs who work through a global chain. A section of the rich in the middle-income, and even the Third World, countries are duped into joining the art dealing syndicates active globally.

Like in many other countries, Bangladesh is also witness to the scourge of the disappearance of art works. Many figurative oils and drawings by Zainul Abedin, Quamrul Hasan and SM Sultan are said to be missing for long. The worst affected of these artists appears to be Shilpacharya  Zainul Abedin. Dozens of his Bengal Famine works are said to have been stolen from a large gallery dedicated to him. Sultan's life was reportedly irregular as he preferred enjoying the freedom of the vastness of life to surrendering to the typical middle-class straitjacket. As he moved places in the then East and West Pakistan without a fixed address, he assumed the role of a peripatetic artist. Wherever he went and spent stints of painting, he would leave some of his completed or nearly finished work there. Except the last three decades of his life, Sultan's was a disorganised lifestyle. By that time many of his masterpieces had gone missing.    

Before the trend of making sound feature films began in the 1930s, the movie world in the West was dominated by silent films. It started in 1899. Prints of many of these silent-era newsreel-based movies got lost or mutilated through the passage of time. A few, however, were retrieved thanks to the relentless efforts by researchers and enthusiasts. The most notable of them was the view of a large number of factory workers on a strike. The quality of the print was presumed to be superbly high. Technicians arrived at this conclusion decades later as they processed the movie into a new and modern version. The movie is now considered the first film ever from the silent era. The short-length movie is now preserved in a digitised form at archives and museums. In the process of the films' making, a few historic movies reached the audiences through the immortal directors like Sergei Eisenstein and Robert Flaherty.

The former's 'Battleship Potemkin' and Flaherty's 'Nanook of the North' later passed down in history as the two milestones in the history of cinema. Between gaps nearly a hundred silent films were made in different parts of the world, including the USA, in the 1920s.The Indian Sub-continent's movie enthusiasts didn't lag behind. Except a few, most of the movie prints decayed due to the absence of scientific preservation facilities and lack of proper maintenance. 'Raja Harishchandra' was the first silent movie in British India. It was produced and directed by Dadasaheb Phalke in 1913. Eighteen years later in 1931, Ardeshi Irani directed 'Alam Ara', India's first sound movie. Both the movies were made in Bombay. The then East Bengal's Dhaka didn't lag behind. Its Nawab family came forward in high enthusiasm to make the movie 'The Last Kiss'. It was released in 1931. Many movie enthusiasts and critics nowadays love to credit the full-length movie with being the first-ever film made on the soil of Bangladesh. In the list of the three movies, the first two were fortunate enough to be in the care of movie lovers. Their prints are now among the highly precious movie gems preserved in India's national film archives.

The original print, along with that of the negative of the movie 'The Last Kiss', has allegedly been lost in Dhaka.  In the behemoth-like movie industry in today's India, missing of film prints is a normal happening. However, thanks to the latest film preservation techniques adopted by the archives, the prints do not grow fungi or get spoiled. Dozens of historically important movies have been turned into garbage-films rolled in canisters over the last 70/80 years in the countries of the sub-continent. Today's Bangladesh is no exception.  The new generation movies have nothing to do with celluloid films. Their use in film making has long been replaced with the digitisation technique. Its use has brought about a radical change in the broader genre of cinema making it easily transportable from one place to another. Centuries-old paintings can now be repaired by 'doctors' specialising in different kinds of art forms. It results in the art works remaining in the original forms when they were created. Of all these mediums, books appear to be the most vulnerable one. In order to stem the process of decay, they should be kept and preserved in properly maintained libraries and private collections. Of these imperatives, the foremost is books need to be always in circulation. Their future editions cannot be allowed to go out of print.


[email protected]                    

Share this news